Judgment of the Court (sixth chamber), March 20th, 1997
Farrell / Long
1. In the light of the division of responsibilities in the preliminary ruling procedure
laid down by the Protocol of 3 June 1971 on the interpretation by the Court of
Justice of the Convention of 27 September 1968 on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of
Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters, it is solely for the national court before
which the dispute has been brought, and which must assume the responsibility for the
subsequent judicial decision, to determine in the light of the particular circumstances of
each case both the need for a preliminary ruling in order to enable it to deliver judgment
and the relevance of the questions which it submits to the Court.
2. The terms of the Convention must, in principle, be interpreted autonomously. Such
autonomous interpretation is alone capable of ensuring uniform application of the
Convention, the objectives of which include unification of the rules on jurisdiction of
the Contracting States, so as to avoid as far as possible multiplication of the bases of
jurisdiction in relation to one and the same legal relationship, and reinforcement of the
legal protection available to persons established in the Community by allowing both the
plaintiff easily to identify the court before which he may bring an action and the
defendant reasonably to foresee the court before which he may be sued.
Those considerations also apply to the term maintenance creditor in the first limb of Article 5(2) of the Convention, which must be interpreted as covering any person applying for maintenance, including a person bringing a maintenance action for the first time, without any distinction being drawn between those already recognized and those not yet recognized as entitled to maintenance.